Workers between ages 45-64 made up about 40% of the workforce as of 2020, as compared to 28% in 1990, according to an Oct. 9 report.
However, employers may not be hiring talent accordingly, according to research from Generation, a global employment non-profit, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
When asked whether they would hire candidates of specific ages for entry- or intermediate-level roles, surveyed hiring managers indicated a strong preference for applicants aged 30-44; candidates aged 45–64 were the least favored.
“Aging workers are an important asset, given their skill sets, experience and commitment,” Director, Directorate Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, Stefano Scarpetta, an OECD director, said in a statement.
“Retaining them in the workforce is key to sustaining high living standards in our economies,” he said. “And with businesses struggling to recruit, it’s more important than ever that all stakeholders do more to make longer and fulfilling careers a reality for all workers, regardless of age.”
The report, based on OECD data and an eight-country survey of thousands of employers, job seekers and employees in the U.S. and Europe, identified an “age-performance paradox” where employers value the experience of their own workers who are age 45 and older but undervalue job seekers in the same age group.
In fact, about 89% of employers said their midcareer and older workers performed well or better than their younger hires. In addition, 83% of employers said these workers learn as quickly — if not more quickly — than younger hires.
However, these values seem to disappear during the hiring process. In general, hiring managers said they’d be just as likely to interview someone with five years of experience as they’d be to interview someone with 25 years of experience.
In addition, hiring managers expressed concerns that workers over age 45 can’t adapt to rapidly changing technology and are less likely to try new technologies. About 52% said workers between ages 30-44 have the right tech skills for work, but only 30% said the same for workers over age 45.
Consequently, according to the report, people between ages 45-64 also make up a growing share of the long-term unemployment population. In the U.S. and across seven countries in Europe, this age group accounted for 44% of the long-term unemployed in 2020, up from 36% in 2000.
“Employers are missing out on talented candidates aged 45 and older,” Mona Mourshed, global CEO of Generation, said in a statement. “There is plenty of evidence that workers aged 45+ can thrive in the workplace. Employers can fill needed roles and boost organization performance by changing hiring practices to embrace candidates of all ages.”
Other recent research, however, indicates that the tide may be shifting. Sixty percent of hiring managers surveyed by Express Employment Professionals said they prefer to hire older candidates over younger ones for entry-level positions, citing better work ethic.
By the 2030s, workers age 55 and older will make up 25% or more of workers in the U.S. and other European countries, according to a recent report from Bain & Co. Instead of ignoring or fighting against the trend, employers can prepare for an aging workforce by developing programs that effectively recruit, reskill and integrate these workers, the report noted.
Older workers are increasingly open for work, too. More older job candidates are applying for roles, including entry-level positions, according to a recent report by Express Employment Professionals. In this case, hiring managers said they appreciate the additional experience and work ethic.
As older employees return to the workforce, some groups — especially women and women of color — have faced major barriers to employment, according to a ZipRecruiter report. HR professionals can help by educating hiring managers about the opportunities that older workers present, training managers to recognize their biases and creating older worker recruitment and retraining programs.